Nationals Baseball: There's something wrong with your starter(s)

Monday, May 20, 2013

There's something wrong with your starter(s)

Memorial Day.  Memorial Day.  Memorial Day.

What's that? Memorial Day is next week? 

Flag Day. Flag Day. Flag Day.

The Nats are a .500 team. That's what the record says. But beyond that the Nats are playing like a .500 team. Losing 2 of 3 on the road to the Dodgers and splitting with the Padres? That's what I'd expect from a .500 team. Things have shaken out enough to tell that it is primarily (only?) an offensive issue. Ok, well the fielding could be better, but it's not the pitching staff's fault, yesterday excluded.

We've lambasted the bench several times ("Fun fact" : since saying that Tyler Moore should be sent down on the morning of the 8th he's actually hit MUCH worse.  1 hit in 24 ABs with 9 Ks, for a line of .042 / .042 / .042. If you are hoping they'll pull the trigger on DLing Espinosa consider that they still haven't touched this guy.) but they are still just the bench.  Let's take a look at how the offensive players ranked at their position in OPS and WAR (bWAR for those that care about such things), as of last night. This is based on 100 ABs by they way.

Suzuki : 
OPS : 8th of 13
WAR : 8th of 13

8th is a little unfair to Suzuki they way the numbers break.  In reality he's a pretty average catcher, which means he can't hit and is not much of a fielder. But it could be worse right?

LaRoche :
OPS : 11th of 14
WAR : 9th of 14

Sorry, Adam. April counts. Last year Adam rose to the top in part because everyone else sunk. This year Votto is healthy, Rizzo and Alonso are rising, Gonzo is NL full-time. Say goodbye to "one of the best first baseman in the league" LaRoche and welcome back "average hitting, good fielding" LaRoche.

Espinosa :
OPS : 14th of 14
WAR : 12th of 14

Why is Espy still around?  Despite being possibly the worst everyday offensive player his D ranks highly enough he's not the worst 2nd baseman in the NL. While the rest of the infield has is either regressing or not shining defensively he's still right in that department. However, man is he bad at the plate. Given his history (minor and major) it screams injury which we all in fact know he has, so he's still here because Rizzo really thinks any guy he can bring up won't match Espy in his combination of skills. Scary thought.

Desmond :
OPS : 4th of 14
WAR : 6th of 14

Bet you thought he was higher. To be fair to Ian there's a big drop offensively after him. Then again Tulo and Jean Segura as a clear step above offensively.  He's not the huge plus he was last year especially since his 2012 fine fielding stats look flukish now, but he's the 2nd best guy on the team right now.

Zimmerman :
OPS : 6th of 14
WAR : 8th of 14

I mean, it's fine and all but this isn't what he's getting paid the big bucks for.  Plus everything is saying the GG days are behind Ryan Zimmerman, even at this young age. He hasn't had superior range since 2010.

Bryce :
OPS : 1st of 13
WAR : 3rd of 13

A legitimitely great all-around player. 

Span :
OPS : 9th of 13
WAR : 7th of 13

The guy can field, I'll give him that. Can't hit though. He's right behind Ruggiano and Pollock who are really fill-in players. For those thinking he'll get better take another look. 2010, 2011 and 2 months of 2013 tell you one thing. 2012 tells you another (and all that is telling you is that he's average). A couple more XBH maybe but this is Span. 

Werth :
OPS : 15th of 16
WAR : 14th of 16

Just as bad as Espy? No. The numbers are unkind to Werth as he's probably a good week from being 10th. And RF hit much better than 2B. So it's a soft 15th, I guess. Still you'd want more for your cash and the future's so dim, you have to wear a miner's helmet.  He's 34 (today! Happy Birthday you cash-sucking, half-time playing, one big HR hitting son of a bitch!) and getting paid 16 million dollars. Next year he'll get paid 20. Then 21 the year after that. Then 21 the year after that. Did I get them all? Nope. Then 21 the year after that.

What's it all end up saying? Yes the bench is failing miserably and Espy is hitting like he's part of that bench, but virtually no one else is hitting expectations. Bryce is great, Desmond is one of the better shortstops, and Suzuki (miracle of miracles because I would have pegged him 1st as likely to be a disappointment) is average. The other 5 hitters are disappointing in one way or another this year.

The Nats had a good offense last year, maybe very good. But to get to that point they needed everyone but Bryce firing on all cylinders. They needed several "best years" to mix with a team that had nearly no disappointments. A regression to a more average offense was in the cards even if expectations were mostly met.  But this is the nightmare scenario. No one surpassing expectations. Many falling below them.

Panic time? Only for those that were 100 wins or bust. For everyone else, it's still ok.  Most playoff teams have 2-3 months of average play during the course of a season. The issue is, of course, if you have your 3 months to start the season, you have no room for error the rest of the way. You can't compensate for a late-season injury or couple weeks of bad luck. The Nats don't NEED to turn it on right now, but it's... let's say "advisable" that they do so.


Zimmerman11 said...

"He's 34 (today! Happy Birthday you cash-sucking, half-time playing, one big HR hitting son of a bitch!) and getting paid 16 million dollars. Next year he'll get paid 20. Then 21 the year after that. Then 21 the year after that. Did I get them all? Nope. Then 21 the year after that."

Those are the words of an enraged fan, not a soulless automaton! Funny too, since the Yankees are the opposite of the Nats(buncha old hacks tearing it up unexpectedly) you'd think that this guy would be happy!

Anonymous said...

I didnt see those words as the words of an enraged fan. i saw them as the words of a soulless automaton trying to twist the knife.

Kenny B. said...

I've decided to simply reorder my expectations and pretend that it is 2012. I'll just be happy to the extent we're in the race. High expectations be damned, this team has largely sucked this year, and is somehow, miraculously only 2.5 games out of first.

Pitching is good (Haren notwithstanding), Bryce is good. Seems like if everyone else continues to age/implode, you can still generate excitement around that, and with the exception of Haren, the pitchers are all very young.

I feel like we won't see much trade activity this year, but I would be interested to hear some speculation as to what might be possible, assuming the Nats would be buyers.

Harper said...

Z11 / Anon - the "son of a bitch line" was in good fun. You just got to say it like a 60 yr old man in a bar seeing a former comrade in arms for the first time in years.

Nothing rankles a souless automaton more than a lack of logic and dammit if that contract isn't the most illogical thing I've ever seen.

Kenny B - oh come on. "in the race". I'm reasonable but even I think that's a little too low.

nicoxen said...


Alex Meyer is averaging 10K / 9 innings in AA ball.

Jayson Werth had a second half OBP of .394 last season hitting leadoff.

Denard Span has 2 stolen bases. Ryan Zimmerman has 3.

Sean Burnett has a 1.04 era in 11 appearance this season (on the DL but still).

The Nats did not add one significant bench player this offseason.

And Danny Espinosa is Danny Espinosa.

I'm not say Rizzo needs to return the Executive of the Year trophy, but some of the 2012/2013 free agent moves (Span + Harren + Chad Tracy + Zach Duke) have not impressed me very much. Also, it's arguable that the team was largely successful in 2012 due to a lot of homegrown talent that was drafted by Jim Bowden (who was run out of town uncermoniously) - or - by drafting #1 overall no-brainers like Stras and Harper.

Chaz R said...

I just can't believe we're at this point given all the post season hype. Practically every "expert" picks the Nats hands down to be in World Series. This is a better team on paper than last year's MLB best record team. Why are these guys all having slumps at the same time?

Carl said...

If everyone's slumping at the same time, hopefully they all regress to the mean and get hot at the same time, just in time to roll us through September and into the playoffs. (Of course, that's kind of what the Caps did this season, and look how that ended up.)

That said, dammit I am just about sick of Espinosa. I am convinced the guy is hurt and won't cop to it. If you're hurt, go get well. You're doing more damage to the team trying to play through it.

Chaz R said...

I guess it could be worse... we could be the Dodgers... but the Dodgers took us!

Harper said...

nicoxen - there's certainly bones to pick w/ Rizzo but Haren was a defendable gamble and you could still argue Span is worth more to the team than a better bat (hard to believe it but possibly true). As for last year Gio deal was huge that the biggest thing he can hang his hat on.

Chaz R / Carl - it's not even that they are all slumping. It's a slumps and injuries and outsized expectations. Bryce hitting like he should this year will counter Espy's injury affected hitting but then everything else (desmond & suzuki's minor expected regressions happening, zimm and span's lack of pop, LaRoche's slow April, Werth's injury and age.) is working against the offense. THe non-injury stuff might solve itself. But if Werth is seriously hurt and Ian and Kurt and LaRoche (eventually) hit as they should not as in 2012, then Zimm or Span has to be great to balance it out.

Carl - I don't think Espy is "hurting" so he'll keep playing. But you don't have to be in pain to have an injury effect you.

Clip&Store said...

Maybe we can get the Angels to take Werth off our hands in another year or so. Help us out like they did for Toronto with Vernon Wells

Froggy said... I've been saying...

5-5 on this road trip and 88-89 wins for the season.

I'd bet Rizzo will be making a couple significant trades in the coming month.

Harper said...

C&S - unfortunately they might be full-up on bad contracts.

Froggy - dealing who exactly? Zimm and his long contract? injured Espy or Ramos? There's no deep part of this team that can handle a deal right now.

Miles Treacy said...

Sometimes when watching our games, I wonder if bringing Davey back was the best thing long-term. Sure we had a magical season last year, but a lot of people credited Bo Porter with the turn around in a lot of the young players. I've watched a couple of Astros games, and it seems he gets a lot of energy out of what is essentially a AA team (an energy I feel the Nats had last year but not this year). I think we should have handed the job over to Porter last year. Davey's "world series or bust" cursed us.

blovy8 said...

Did you the article with Suzuki's terrible "framing" numbers on Baseball Prospectus? It's a wonder the pitchers are doing this well.

I'm going to take a shot at some positives, though it's not my nature to do so -

LaRoche's numbers are trending up. He's only overrated if you thought he was very good. Can he be average? Yes, that's kind of who he is. Good power, so-so onbase, no range, good hands, regular guy who isn't a jerk. Probably easy to trade if his power numbers continue to rise the next few weeks. He's affordable and has that "good clubhouse guy" reputation and his contract isn't onerous.

They can't keep Espy in there forever. Maybe Lombo isn't the answer, but Kobernus is hot in AAA, despite lack of experience, Rendon could also go there, what the hell, maybe it's possible to find a Scutaro in that guy as a late bloomer.

As long as he stays healthy, Desmond's numbers will be fine. I think his D will always be somewhat inconsistent, but the power will make up for his lack of patience.

Zim is about the only reliable all-around hitter on the club right now besides Harper. His K rate seemed high, I think it'll come down some so as to form a typical sort of season, but it could get to the point where Rendon might need to come up to play the 8th and 9th innings for defense. That's pretty sad.

I get the sense that Span is a bit streaky. He's never really been a big base stealer nor does DJ use that, so it's a bit unfair. He's in a lull, but I don't think a .340-350 OBP with good D is an outrageous expectation.

Werth can be in the bottom 5 right fielders and that might be worth a run a game given what the team has gotten in his absence. All he has to do is be an average hitter at this point. Blaming the salary we don't pay him is just sour grapes. The Lerners have Croesus money if they want to buy another OF.

blovy8 said...

This is the flipside of Davey's patience and confidence. You don't get changes quickly if he thinks a guy's a good prospect and pretty much ready. He's complained about his lineup's approach, but not the personnel. He's formed an opinion about Espinosa, Moore, Desmond, etc. and it's going to take time to budge it downward. But it's getting to be long enough period of drought to think Rizzo has to be close to making a change in the roster to improve the offense.

The trouble with making trades right now, is unless you want to part with Rendon, (who is looking like he'll be needed at third really soon if Zim's throwing remains as is), the top prospects list is not encouraging to the other clubs: Skole is hurt. Giolito, Solis and Purke haven't pitched a competitive inning yet this year. Cole is repeating high A and probably the best chip. Garcia and Karns are old for prospects and pretty much relievers. Goodwin isn't doing much in AA, but probably the next most valuable, Perez is up and being his slappy, speedy self.
Rosenbaum is probably the #6 starter after Duke/Stammen need to go back to the pen. That's already some fragile depth. While he's not on the 40-man roster, he deserves a chance, based on his results, sooner than Young, Ohlendorf, Maya, or Perry. But while he's no flame thrower, he'd probably look ok to some clubs and the Nats would have to listen to an offer.
Has Moore K'ed his way out of any trade value? I kinda think so.
What are they gonna get for any of these guys? Not enough to make a difference. If they bundle a few, the minors depth goes from mediocre to awful.

Anonymous said...

Let's see. 3b can't field. 1b can't hit. 2b can't do either. RF is always hurt. Not a good recipe for success.

blovy8 said...

3b recovering, 2b hurt and won't come out, rf still hurt, c still hurt (but at least backup is adequate), average everywhere else but Harper in spot where his value is the least.

But hey, this is the team that had the depth and talent to win how many games Harper?

Harper said...

blovy8 - 94 games according to me. (85 win pace right now)

Zimmerman11 said...

FWIW... with all the injuries...

His name is Landon Brandes... Nats strength and conditioning coach... let's all write him some fan mail expressing our gratitude to him (and the players) for being ready for the start of the season, shall we?

I'm a little more than a little perturbed at all the hamstring injuries. Bryce Harper running into walls is one thing... Jayson Werth getting paid 16M to ride the pine is another.

Maybe some of this falls on Davey too, for not putting the starters out there enough in ST... but it seems like whether or not they were getting at bats, they should have been at least getting in their workouts.

This team needs to snap out of it soon.

Zimmerman11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zimmerman11 said...

@ Miles Treacy... Bo Porter? The guy who didn't know the substitution rule? THAT Bo Porter? I guess, maybe he was TRYING to pull a fast one on the umps, but it seems like that is giving him a little too much credit, given his news conference after the game in HOU. :)

“My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”
Changed the rule? What's that you say? What Porter's saying is ... the opposite of correct.

Miles Treacy said...

@zimmerman11 I'll take Bo's mishap on a substitution than Davey's boneheaded idea to keep calling hit and runs when trailing and killing momentum how many times this year, along with sticking with guys like Moore and Espi for horrible reasons.

Froggy said...

Thanks Blovy8 for the farm update and a reality check on trade prospects. Putting things in perspective aside, it is readily apparent that Rizzo / Davey need to go into fix-it mode one.way or the other. 85 win pace will not cut it.

I'm not ready to call it a season and think it is also too early to pin blame on anyone especially Davey. He has been dealt more than a few bad hands with injuries and done the best he could I think.

The fitness thing on the other hand...the ridiculous number of hamstring pulls...I mean c'mon.

Kenny B. said...

"oh come on. 'in the race'. I'm reasonable but even I think that's a little too low."

I have gone into very few sports seasons in my life where I had very high expectations of my favorite sports teams. One of them is the 2013 Washington Nationals, and is so far the best of those. The idea of a favorite team winning a championship seems like something I will never be able to experience, kind of like being exorbitantly wealthy. That's something for other people.

You're a Yankees fan, so hope is in your nature. You can never know what it's like to have disappointment endemic to your favorite teams. Getting my hopes up has never worked out for me, ever.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Alright, everyone climb off the ledge. Geez. Defensively, we're not perfect, but we'll be fine with even one or two healthy pieces or even a regression to the mean. Zimm won't keep up this error pace all season, and Span has been an upgrade. Offensively, LaRoche is trending up. Zimm is trending up. Desi is already up. Bryce is far more up than only the most optimistic thought he would be. Span is serviceable, and Werth has been fine when he's in. Yes, Espy is awful, but he doesn't have to be good, and getting the full load of starters back will help him. Things are going to be fine.

Kenny B, I'm the same. I'm a lifelong Skins fan, so I get it. But relax. And Froggy, the fact that anyone even feels the need to make the statement "I'm not ready to call it a season" means we probably all need to take a big deep breath. It's not even the end of May, and we're only 2.5 games out. Are the Nats where they wanted/hoped/should be? God no. But there's a lot of baseball left.

Booyah Suckah! said...

And Blovy8, maybe I misunderstood, but did you actually just opine that Rendon might need to spell Zimm in the 8th and 9th? What, like, because of fatigue? He's 28 for chrissakes. He's having some issues, mainly a mild case of the yips, but come on... He's not using a cane and talking about when he and Ty Cobb used to go beat up poor people. Lets keep it in perspective.

Froggy said...

Booyah, the last 5 year's I've been a fan and optimist. This year I'm just being a realist. The fact that it is not the end of May and we are playing as poorly as we are is is cause for concern. Now if we were playing great fundamental baseball, minimal errors, people hitting, catchers throwing guys out, pitchers dominating, dealing with only the 'occasional put-your-$17million-China-doll-ass-purse-down' hamstring injuries, AND only losing games by one run, I wouldn't be concerned.

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